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AN ERA HAS ENDED

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The Associated Press | February 28, 2013 02:38 PM EST | AP

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In the final moments of Benedict XVI's papacy, the church bells began ringing.

It was 8 p.m. in the Italian hill town of Castel Gandolfo, 8 p.m. in the Vatican, 8 p.m. across Italy – the chosen time on the chosen day that the one who was chosen decided to retire.

Both Swiss Guards flanked the elegant 20-foot doorway leading into the papal palace in the town. One of them saluted an official. From the crowd – about 100 well-wishers who braved the freezing temperatures with their children and their dogs – shouts rang out.

"Long live the pope!"

With precise movements, the guards marched into the palace. The massive wooden doors began closing shut, first one side, then the other. The crowd was applauding, sighing, shivering.

And with the click of a lock, Pope Benedict XVI's eight-year reign as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics came to a quiet end.

_ Frances D'Emilio – Twitter http://twitter.com/fdemilio

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"Pope Live" follows the events of the final day of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy as seen by journalists from The Associated Press around the world. It will be updated throughout the day with breaking news and other items of interest. Follow AP reporters on Twitter where available.